May 16th, 2004
Wesley, Doncaster East
© John M. Connan
There’s nothing like being perfect!
Ann tells me I’m not. And I have serious doubts about you lot!
We’re in trouble, when we pretend we’re perfect. We’re in desperate trouble, when we don’t even know we’re pretending.
We know Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s a tough call. We might just have taken him seriously, if he hadn’t later said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you’ll have treasure in heaven.” We kid ourselves that’s a special case: Jesus was talking to a rich guy, who’d got his priorities muddled. That’s not where we are.
We’re not perfect – deep-down we know it. We try keeping it to ourselves. We may not be filled with turmoil, but we have doubts and self-doubts, uncertainties and apprehensions about the future. We’ve our share of weaknesses, problems, troubles and moral failures. We should admit it. We know we should. But… we’re Christians. And Christians are perfect… sort of.
We know that these things pushed down will come out some way, somehow, some time. We know we should share our feelings of insecurity; our failings; and even our moral lapses. But we ask ourselves, “What would others think about us – wife; husband; kids, friends?” We can’t do it.
The bead of perspiration on our upper lip dries up.
And the inner peace and calm we so desperately seek never quite comes.
Think about the first disciples. They had every failing we have. We’ve the advantage of psychological insights. But they had the advantage of walking and talking with Jesus, the chance to ask questions, and to have him sort out their lives.
Friday was coming. There were many things they hadn’t understood – perhaps never would. There was little enough time for him to teach them anything in the few hours he was to have with them. They’d just have to remember and understand later. There was time only to prepare them for reality – the reality of pain and suffering and death: his.
He knew they were going to find it difficult to cope. They’d said nothing could wrench them from his side – but they’d run and hide. His mission was to become their mission – but, at first, they’d go back to their old ways of life. They’d be worried, upset, afraid, and guilty. He knew it – and needed to prepare them for the new realities of life.
He promised them a special gift: the gift of peace. That would help them cope. That would help them get their lives straight.
We’ve still got the slide somewhere. After 35 years it’s probably growing mildew. I shot it an early January dawn – across the mirror-smooth surface of Lake Matheson in the New Zealand Westland to the face of Fox Glacier and the Southern Alps. A quiet, breathless, cold beauty. Peace.
Peace. But not the peace Jesus promised.
Have you been to sea in a real storm: waters whipped into a frenzy by the wind; wishing you’d never gone – waves reaching terrifying heights, as though they’ll never flatten, as though there’ll never be another calm?
Yet deep down, underneath the heaving tumult, there’s a calm, a place untouched by the wildness above. It’s a peace that can’t be seen – a deep-down peace.
That’s the peace Jesus promised: on the surface things in absolute tumult – yet, deep-down, calm and peace.
Jesus didn’t promise absence from trouble. The cross of pain and suffering awaited him – he knew it. He promised his disciples crosses – for his sake. No immunity from sadness; sorrow; griefs; disappointments; suffering. No avoiding danger and troubles. No refusal to face up to what would come their way, because they followed him. Theirs was to be a way that needed courage, commitment and determination. But it was to be a way of peace: that was his promise.
They didn’t understand all this at first. This “farewell” speech left them confused.
Later they did remember. His words came back to them. They were to understand. They were to experience the peace he’d promised. They were to experience Jesus present with them wherever they went, whatever they were doing, whatever was happening to them, whatever was being done to them. He was there. He was their peace.
Peace: that was his promise to them. Peace: that’s what they wanted others to know about and to have for themselves: people like you and me.
Peace: not for those who are truly perfect: they’ve no need of it. Peace for those struggling towards perfection, with all the setbacks, all the failure, all the disappointments, all the turning away: certainly we need it. We know we need it. Peace can be ours, if we can only admit our need for it, and ask Jesus to be with us as our Peace.
Peace: not for those who know nothing about turmoil, self-doubt, uncertainty, sadness and grief: they’ve no need of it. Peace for those struggling with fear, sorrow, disappointment, and a sense of repeated failures: certainly we need it. We know we need it. Peace can be ours, if we can only admit our need for it, and tell Jesus we want him with us always as our Peace.
Peace to receive: peace to share.
Peace: not for our sake; but for Jesus’ sake. Peace and wholeness and integrity: not just for us; but for every person on the face of the earth – and for the earth itself.
That’s Jesus’ promise. It’s God’s intention.
Peace that Jesus offers, Peace that nothing can take away, while Jesus is ours, and we are his.
 Matthew 5:48.
 Matthew 19:21.